Olympic Weightlifting and Accessory Lifts Loading

By Coach Sarah

Have you ever gone into the gym to “work on” your lifting but had absolutely no idea how to design a workout that will be beneficial?  Well, hopefully this article will give you some insight into possible volumes (sets and reps) as well as intensities (weight) that you should consider.  In this article we will discuss loading for squats, the classic lifts, and pressing movements.

First of all, let’s start with squats since I believe it’s a movement that a lot of us will go into the gym to complete on our own.  Squats tend to have the broadest ranges of volume and intensity-dependent on what kind of cycle we are in.  If we are focused on strength then our reps are going to be slightly higher than if we are focused on power.  Strength focused workouts are going to have higher reps volumes where power will be lower rep volumes.  Both workouts would be considered “heavy” workouts.  Here is a table that should give you some guidance on some volume and intensities to try.

10 x 375-78%
10 x 280-83%
5 x 570-75%
5 x 375-80%
3 x 380-85%
2 x 285-90%

The classic lifts will likely see the greatest ranges of loading because of the possible objectives of the athlete and coach at different phases of training.  For example, during a competition prep phase of programming, an athlete will often times be completing single repetitions at higher intensities.  The below table illustrates the possible loading of this athlete at given intensities.

Total SetsIntensity

During phases of training where strength is a priority, the classic lifts will be used in variations that emphasize technique and speed.  The loading at this time will look quite different and will focus on doubles and triples at lower intensities rather than singles at higher intensities.  Here is a table illustrating that situation.

3 position Snatch/Clean65-70%
2 position Snatch/Clean70-75%
Snatch/Clean/Jerk Triples70-75%
Snatch/Clean/Jerk Doubles75-80%
Hang/Block Snatch/Clean65-80%

Pressing and push pressing movements are similar in loading to the squats although oftentimes athletes will not be capable of quite as heavy loading at a given number of reps with press variations than with squats.  A basic guideline for percentages is in the table below.

5 x 570-75%
4 x 477-82%
5 x 375-80%
3 x 380-85%

         In conclusion, there are several ways to train and each one depends on your experience and what phase of training you are in at any given time.  Volume and intensity can vary greatly within a program but using these tables will help navigate the never-ending variation in training programs.  Now use this knowledge the next time you go in to train on your own and soon everyone will be asking how you got your “gains”!!!


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